It seems we can’t go anywhere on the Internet without worrying about being tracked by someone. Online security is a more pressing matter than ever, with so much of our lives being online, it makes sense that we’d all be more concerned about keeping our privacy private.
Being a Google company, there won’t be many people out there who are naive enough to think that YouTube doesn’t engage in a little tracking of its own, but there are levels to that tracking. So, if you’re looking for a short answer to the question posed in this post’s title, yes, YouTube can and does track you, but if you’d like to know a bit more about what that tracking entails, keep reading.
Logged In Vs Anonymous
The first distinction to make here is the difference between a YouTube user who is logged in and one who is not. Obviously, when you are logged in, YouTube knows a great deal about you and is able to explicitly keep a detailed log of your activities. Indeed, their tracking in this respect is a feature of the platform. YouTube can’t make recommendations based on your interests and viewing history if they do not keep track of what that viewing history is! This, unfortunately, is an unavoidable aspect of using the platform. There is no way to opt out of being tracked in this regard, even if you pay for YouTube Premium to get rid of ads. Ads are, ultimately, the reason for tracking you in the first place, since advertisers want to serve you the most relevant ads possible.
But YouTube can’t be sure that you won’t cancel your Premium subscription in the future, and if and when that happens, they want to have all their data on you for the ads they’re going to start serving you again.
Of course, anonymous users are not exempt from being tracked on YouTube, but they have a little more privacy than their logged in counterparts. For one thing, YouTube does not have the user data that you enter when you sign up for an account, such as your date of birth, gender, and other information of that nature.
Still, YouTube (and any other platform for that matter) can keep personalised records for anonymous users thanks to their “digital fingerprint”. This is a swath of data that they can read about you, such as the device you are using to view YouTube, your IP address, what operating system you have… even what fonts you have installed! All of this information makes combines to paint a picture almost as unique as a fingerprint, and certainly unique enough for YouTube to keep tabs on you.
Again, this is all for the purpose of advertising. YouTube will try to build as accurate a picture of you as possible so that they can serve the most relevant ads. The more relevant the ads, the higher the chance that you’ll click them, and the more you click those ads, the better the perceived performance of YouTube as an advertising platform resulting in more advertisers being willing to put their money into YouTube.
Is Being Tracked by YouTube Bad?
People have varying opinions about the ethics of companies like YouTube tracking your online activities but it’s worth remembering that YouTube is a service that—if you’re not paying for YouTube Premium—is free, but being free to you does not mean YouTube do not still have monumental bills to pay from all the bandwidth and employees and more.
Tracking the people who use their service is part of the mechanism by which YouTube makes money, which is an integral part of them being able to provide the service at all. At the end of the day, you are choosing to use YouTube, and in doing so, you agree to the way they run the platform, which includes tracking you. If you are not comfortable with the tracking, you don’t have to use YouTube.
This may seem like an impractical alternative since YouTube is pretty much the only game in town for a certain kind of content creator, but it is, ethically speaking, the only alternative to accepting the tracking you will face if you use their platform.
Can I Avoid Being Tracked by YouTube?
With that being said, what if you still want to circumvent YouTube’s tracking? Well, the first thing to note is that it is impossible if you are logged in. Logged in users will always have their viewing history and viewing habits logged.
If you are prepared to use YouTube without being logged in, you can get around YouTube’s anonymous tracking to a degree by doing things like using different devices and proxy servers. Of course, most of us only have access to a limited number of devices, which makes this a rather limited solution, but there are also virtual machines as an option.
Deleting YouTube History
You can’t control everything YouTube stores about you, but if you are a logged-in user, you can choose to erase your viewing history, which constitutes a significant part of the data YouTube keeps on its users.
To do this, head over to the Watch History on YouTube and click “See All”, where you will find a variety of controls at your disposal These include the ability to clear all of your watch history, pause your watch history (so views won’t be recorded to your watch history), as well as controls relating to search history and comments. You can also remove individual videos from your watch history from within the video page itself.
Tracking is, unfortunately, an unavoidable reality of the modern Internet. Privacy is an understandable hot-button issue, but the fact is many web services and online platforms we rely on would not be able to deliver the services they do if they couldn’t track their users in this manner.
That being said, you are not completely powerless. If this is an important thing for you, you can try using YouTube logged out and through a proxy.
Top 5 Tools To Get You Started on YouTube
Very quickly before you go here are 5 amazing tools I have used every day to grow my YouTube channel from 0 to 30K subscribers in the last 12 months that I could not live without.
1. VidIQ helps boost my views and get found in search
I almost exclusively switched to VidIQ from a rival in 2020.
2. Adobe Creative Suite helps me craft amazing looking thumbnails and eye-catching videos
I have been making youtube videos on and off since 2013.
When I first started I threw things together in Window Movie Maker, cringed at how it looked but thought “that’s the best I can do so it’ll have to do”.
I soon realized the move time you put into your editing and the more engaging your thumbnails are the more views you will get and the more people will trust you enough to subscribe.
That is why I took the plunge and invested in my editing and design process with Adobe Creative Suite. They offer a WIDE range of tools to help make amazing videos, simple to use tools for overlays, graphics, one click tools to fix your audio and the very powerful Photoshop graphics program to make eye-catching thumbnails.
Best of all you can get a free trial for 30 days on their website, a discount if you are a student and if you are a regular human being it starts from as little as £9 per month if you want to commit to a plan.
3. Rev.com helps people read my videos
You can’t always listen to a video.
Maybe you’re on a bus, a train or sat in a living room with a 5 year old singing baby shark on loop… for HOURS. Or, you are trying to make as little noise as possible while your new born is FINALLY sleeping.
This is where Rev can help you or your audience consume your content on the go, in silence or in a language not native to the video.
Rev.com can help you translate your videos, transcribe your videos, add subtitles and even convert those subtitles into other languages – all from just $1.50 per minute.
A GREAT way to find an audience and keep them hooked no matter where they are watching your content.
4. PlaceIT can help you STAND OUT on YouTube
I SUCK at making anything flashy or arty.
I have every intention in the world to make something that looks cool but im about as artistic as a dropped ice-cream cone on the web windy day.
That is why I could not live on YouTube without someone like PlaceIT. They offer custom YouTube Banners, Avatars, YouTube Video Intros and YouTube End Screen Templates that are easy to edit with simple click, upload wizard to help you make amazing professional graphics in minutes.
Best of all, some of their templates are FREE! or you can pay a small fee if you want to go for their slightly more premium designs (pst – I always used the free ones).
5. StoryBlocks helps me add amazing video b-roll cutaways
I mainly make tutorials and talking head videos.
And in this modern world this can be a little boring if you don’t see something funky every once in a while.
I try with overlays, jump cuts and being funny but my secret weapon is b-roll overlay content.
I can talk about skydiving, food, money, kids, cats – ANYTHING I WANT – with a quick search on the StoryBlocks website I can find a great looking clip to overlay on my videos, keeping them entertained and watching for longer.
They have a wide library of videos, graphics, images and even a video maker tool and it wont break the bank with plans starting from as little as £8.25 ($9) per month.